Catalonia’s predicament is a warning to those who dream of an independent Wales within the EU.
Despite all the main players in Catalonia being all in favour of joining the EU as soon as possible after independence, the EU remains resolutely opposed.
The EU’s reluctance has nothing to do with Spain’s constitution and similar excuses. The bottom line is the economy of the EU, and in particular the banking sector.
The banking system in EU is a house of cards that could collapse at any moment. The entire edifice is dependent on the expectation that someday Europe’s nation states will pay back all the money they owe.
If the banks lost faith in the ability of nation states to pay them back, it would set off a global financial crisis that would make Lehman Brothers look like a picnic.
If Catalonia leaves Spain, Spain would lose 20% of its economy and the country’s ability to pay back the debt it owes would be in serious doubt. Spain could become a massive Greece that the EU could not bail out.
The Euro would be in crisis once more, and populism would be turbo-charged as other nations attempt to bail out failing nation-states. The European project could come apart completely.
If Catalonia declares independence, the EU totters.
So basically, it doesn’t matter how radical or civilized Catalonia wants to be. Unless it agrees to pay Spain’s debts it will never be allowed to be independent.
And since a large part of the arguments for Catalonia’s independence are driven by the unfairness of having to sustain Spain’s economy, that would call into question the point of independence in the first place.
In this way, the principles of self-determination, and the sovereignty of the people, are sacrificed on the altar of neo-liberal economics.
Bucking the system
Plaid Cymru, our only nationalist party, claims that it wants to see ‘an independent Wales, run on the principles of de-centred socialism, in the EU’.
In light of the EU’s readiness to tolerate police violence in order to save its own skin, the party needs to ask itself whether this is even a realistic ambition.
Socialism is anathema to the neo-liberal economics that the EU was created to facilitate. The EU may have other worthwhile characteristics, but it is above all a trading block within which fiscal policy is becoming increasingly centralised.
The decentred grassroots community inspired co-operativism that Plaid Cymru supports would be snuffed out by the EU’s distant institutions.
All of this means that left-wing civic nationalist movements in Wales, Scotland, Catalonia now face a dilemma.
If they wish to remain within the EU they will have to abandon the left wing aspect of their doctrines, and pursue the limited austerity-driven financial autonomy on offer everywhere else, in exchange for some cultural and linguistic recognition.
Or they can stay within the UK and Spain and watch the limited autonomy they now possess being clawed back.
Do Wales, Scotland and Catalonia have the strength of will and intellectual drive to forge a third path – truly independent nation-states strong enough to oppose the neo-liberal world order?
And who would lead such a drive in Wales? The traditionally pro-EU Plaid, a grassroots movement, or even an increasingly Euro-sceptic Labour party?
At the moment, it’s all up for grabs.